Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Be Careful What You Covet

Have you ever looked at something which belonged to someone else and thought or openly said, "I want that!"? It could be almost anything - new car, big house, spouse, job, beauty, fame, etc. If you have ever wished for, longed for, or been tempted to take what was not yours, I have a story for you.

A friend and colleague, Dr. Charles Hays, tells about a man in Texas who was trying to get rid of some pesky fire ants in his yard. He laid a small circle of very potent fire ant poison around the large hill of ants. Thinking these tiny granules of poison were food, the fire ants began to pick up individual granules and carry them down into the hill and throughout the entire colony.

The man returned some time later to see how well the poison was working. Literally hundreds of the fire ants were still busy carrying the poison down into the inner recesses of their large ant hill. Upon closer examination he discovered a gap in the circle of poison he had earlier laid down. Some of the granules of the poison were moving in the opposite direction, away from the entrance to the fire ant hill. What was going on?

He discovered that some black, non-stinging ants had found this food and were stealing it from their fire ant neighbors. Thinking, no doubt, that they were stealing this windfall of food from their neighbors, they were unwittingly poisoning themselves.

Many lessons come to mind from this story. Perhaps you have seen people do the very same thing - unwittingly pilfering poison. In fact, we may be people who have in principle done that very same thing.

Sometimes people bring ideas into their homes that poison the minds of their children. Perhaps you have seen an authoritative parent maintaining control over his/her family in such an efficient way that no one disobeyed, and you coveted what seemed to be such an effective family government. You borrowed the concept and brought it home, only to discover, (too late) that you had poisoned your family relationships with some else's idea. It may have looked like a good idea for solving some irritating personal, family or social problem, but appropriating and propagating prejudice, hatred, cynicism, and a host of other poisonous ideas in the family circle can cripple children in ways from which they never recover.

You may have observed some powerful person in the circle of people you admire practicing such poisonous concepts with apparent success. Maybe you are thinking of borrowing these ideas for use in your own home or business. Always remember,however, coveting some idea that looks good deserves to be very carefully evaluated before you appropriate it for your own use. Poison comes in many different forms. Be careful about what you bring into the nest.

The Bible has two good lines about wishing for or taking something that does not belong to you: "Thou shalt not covet" and "Thou shalt not steal". Both are very dangerous practices. These two admonitions have always been true, even before they formally made the list of the "Big Ten". They are universal, i.e., true in any time or place. The violations of these two axioms cause wars between nations, broken relationships between people, and guilt and shame in individuals. God does not need to punish us for most sins and vices; coveting or grasping what is not ours carries its own penalty, hidden in the act itself, like a Trojan horse.

Jesus said we should not even think about it (as in "dwell on it"). How quickly the thought, when entertained, becomes the father of the act.